Friday, April 26, 2019

Our nation is living divine right of kings redux. In the eyes of his followers President Trump can do no wrong.

Back in January CNN reported that, according to Sarah Suckabee Handers, God ‘wanted Donald Trump to become president’.

“I think God calls all of us to fill different roles at different times and I think that he wanted Donald Trump to become president, and that’s why he’s there,” Sanders told CBN’s David Brody and Jennifer Wishon, according to a transcript of the interview provided by CBN.

Here’s the thing. If God made Donald Trump president, that act confers on Trump rights of divinity accorded to a king. Let’s explore that one.

divine right of kings
the doctrine that the right of rule derives directly from God, not from the consent of the people.

A lot logically follows from that short definition. For example, “the doctrine that kings derive their authority from God, not from their subjects, from which it follows that rebellion is the worst of political crimes

And from the Wikipedia entry: “asserts that a monarch is subject to no earthly authority, deriving the right to rule directly from the will of God. The king is thus not subject to the will of his people, the aristocracy, or any other estate of the realm. It implies that only God can judge an unjust king and that any attempt to depose, dethrone or restrict his powers runs contrary to the will of God and may constitute a sacrilegious act.”

By now, you’ve figured out where this is going. In my view Trump’s behaviors, increasingly, are those of a king in a monarchy rather than those of a president in a democracy. As such, he is beyond the touch of democratic institutions and processes. As such, opposition to his actions is sacrilegious and cannot be tolerated. Trump’s tangle with Congress over subpoenas is an example.

Phillip Bump at the Washington Post explores How the Trump-Congress subpoena fight is likely to play out

It’s safe to say that President Trump is, at best, indifferent to the system of checks and balances that gives Congress the power to oversee his administration and his presidency. Trump has regularly complained about the number of investigations initiated by Democrats since they retook control of the House in January, at times conflating those probes with the most frequent target of his frustration, the investigation conducted by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III.

The Democrats don’t seem to be particularly worried about Trump’s complaints. In recent weeks, the salvo of requests has included demanding Trump’s tax returns, requesting testimony from an official in charge of security clearances and seeking testimony from former officials cited in Mueller’s report, such as former White House counsel Don McGahn. If it’s not a full-court press, it’s getting there.

In response, Trump has dug in. The Treasury Department missed a Tuesday deadline to hand over the tax returns. The White House’s personnel security director, Carl Kline, was instructed not to respond to a subpoena. On Tuesday afternoon, The Washington Post reported that the White House planned to fight the subpoena issued to McGahn on the basis of executive privilege.

We’re just past the brink of a wide-ranging, multifront legal fight between the executive and legislative branches.

Who will win? The short of it is twofold. First, the clock favors Trump. His stalling and stonewalling are devices meant to run out the clock and deny effective congressional oversight until 2020 or beyond and in a new Congress, maybe not even then. Second, and perhaps more importantly, Congress can issue subpoenas but “it lacks a robust criminal enforcement mechanism. A recent Congressional Research Service report delineated the two ways in which Congress could pressure administration officials to respond to subpoenas: criminal contempt citations or civil enforcement.” Those actions end up in court and that creates delays. “And with Barr as AG, what are the chances that DOJ will act to enforce the subpoenas?” With absolute executive branch control, there are no checks and only imbalances. Our democracy is on the block.

A unified Congress, in particularly the Senate, as it did in the Watergate hearings, could act to restrain Trump’s autocracy. But that would require cooperation from Senate Republicans. Unfortunately, they are self-sidelined by their own selfish interests (such as tax cuts for the already wealthy) and their Trumpian philosophy (authoritarianism). It is as if we lived in a monarchy in which the king buys his legitimacy by showering largesse upon the nobles. Our country is closer to that kind of government and society than most people believe.

Steve Benen (MSNBC/MaddowBlog asks Following the Mueller report, why are Dems the only ones ‘wrestling’?

The headline on the front page of the New York Times yesterday read, “Divided on Impeachment, Democrats Wrestle with Duty and Politics.” The article that followed highlighted a contentious and pressing issue that the House majority is struggling with.

But reading the Times’ piece nevertheless got me thinking about the reports we haven’t seen since the release of Special Counsel Robert Mueller’s report. The newspaper is right that Democrats are “wrestling with duty and politics,” but that only raises a question that’s gone largely overlooked:

Why aren’t Republicans “wrestling with duty and politics,” too?

… Trump’s Republican allies seem quite content, indifferent to the special counsel’s revelations, and incurious about their president’s alleged felonies.

As Ezra Klein put it last week, “It’s a sign of the rot in our political system that all conversation about holding the president accountable takes the form of discussing ‘What Democrats should do,’ because Republicans have utterly abdicated their oversight role.”

We’re not seeing “Republicans Wrestle with Duty and Politics” headlines because there are certain assumptions that undergird our contemporary political norms. One of them is that GOP officials – leaders and rank-and-file members – aren’t struggling with the evidence of presidential wrongdoing because they simply don’t care what the evidence says.

But that’s not a posture that deserves broad acceptance without controversy. Yes, Democrats are grappling with a divisive debate, and sure, that’s newsworthy. But the GOP’s indifference to a historic scandal is controversy unto itself.

It gets worse (with h/t’s for citations to several sources by AZ BlueMeanie).

It’s worse than Republican indifference, as Paul Waldman (Washington Post/PlumLine) reports in No bottom: Republicans show they’ll defend just about anything Trump does.

There’s a pattern that President Trump has followed many times when accused of wrongdoing. First, deny it. Then, when irrefutable proof emerges that you did it and your denials were lies, insist that there was nothing wrong with it in the first place. That’s how he handled the story of his hush-money payments to Stormy Daniels, the fact that he was pursuing a deal to build a tower in Moscow while running for president (“There would have been nothing wrong if I did do it”), and his campaign’s attempt to get damaging information on Hillary Clinton from a Russian lawyer (“totally legal and done all the time in politics”).

We’re seeing it anew. On Sunday, Rudolph W. Giuliani went on television and insisted: “There’s nothing wrong with taking information from Russians." This was in a context where that “information” was the result of an organized attack allegedly by Russian intelligence agents that included hacking into Democratic email systems.

That’s right: The president’s lawyer just issued an invitation to any foreign adversary — Russia, China, Iran, North Korea, the Islamic State, anyone — that if they decide that one American presidential candidate would be more favorable to their interests, they should go ahead and hack, spy or use whatever other kind of means they want to employ to sway the election, and their efforts will be welcomed.

That alone is shocking and despicable. But it’s just one part of a larger Republican argument, one that says not that Trump did some unfortunate things but nothing that would justify prosecution or impeachment, but instead that he is completely blameless because there is no such thing as unethical conduct if committed by Trump.

Remember my opener? This is the divine right of kings all over again. But here Trump’s exercises his divine right with the acceptance and approval of the members of his royal chamber - Republicans and evangelists to name two.

Waldman repeats:

Republicans … aren’t arguing that Trump’s behavior was reprehensible but doesn’t rise to the level of impeachment. Instead, their position is that Trump didn’t do a single thing wrong.

Perhaps nowhere was the rapid transformation more evident than among white conservative evangelicals, who at one time persuaded everyone to refer to them as “values voters,” as though they were the only ones in possession of “values” while everyone else just has opinions. Their enthusiastic embrace of the most amoral president in modern history has proved how laughable that appellation always was, which is why no one uses it anymore. Three years after rushing to his side, they have shown that if you can convince yourself that God’s will is being worked through Trump, no sin is too repulsive to excuse and no abuse of power too blatant to justify.

This is the logical and perhaps inevitable endpoint of the decision they made in 2016. Republicans chose as their leader the single most loathsome figure in American public life, a man possessed of not a single human virtue. He would inevitably call them to descend to the moral void where he resides. And when they did — enthusiastically — they showed us not just who he is, but who they are as well.

The AZ BlueMeanie asks How do we excise the cancer that is the Party of Trump? There’s lots more in that post for example, Paul Krugman’s essay The Great Republican Abdication. A party that no longer believes in American values.

… it’s later than you think for American democracy. Before 2016 you could have wondered whether Republicans would, in extremis, be willing to take a stand in defense of freedom and rule of law. At this point, however, they’ve already taken that test, and failed with flying colors.

The simple fact is that one of our two major parties — the one that likes to wrap itself in the flag — no longer believes in American values. And it’s very much up in the air whether America as we know it will survive.

The BlueMeanie concludes:

The Party of Trump represents somewhere between 36–42% of the American public. They walk among us. They are our co-workers, neighbors, and even family members. The authoritarian personality cult of Donald Trump is a cancer in the body politic that directly threatens the survival of our great American experiment in democracy.

Remove Donald Trump, and his cult followers will simply reassign their cult loyalty to whomever emerges as his successor. (Trump likely dreams of a Trump dynasty, keeping it within the Trump crime family. Sorry Mike Pence). His cult followers are not going to magically transform into becoming “normal Republicans” from our past after Trump is gone as some Never-Trumpers delude themselves. There is no going back to the Party of Lincoln when Never-Trumpers have failed to establish a viable alternative political party to appeal to disaffected former Republicans.

So the question we need to ask ourselves is “How do we excise the cancer that is the Party of Trump?” I don’t yet have an answer to this question. And neither does anyone else, it appears.

But let’s give Hillary Clinton a chance. She offers observations and advice in Mueller documented a serious crime against all Americans. Here’s how to respond.

Our election was corrupted, our democracy assaulted, our sovereignty and security violated. This is the definitive conclusion of special counsel Robert S. Mueller III’s report. It documents a serious crime against the American people.

The debate about how to respond to Russia’s “sweeping and systematic” attack — and how to hold President Trump accountable for obstructing the investigation and possibly breaking the law — has been reduced to a false choice: immediate impeachment or nothing. History suggests there’s a better way to think about the choices ahead.

Obviously, this is personal for me, and some may say I’m not the right messenger. But my perspective is not just that of a former candidate and target of the Russian plot. I am also a former senator and secretary of state who served during much of Vladi­mir Putin’s ascent, sat across the table from him and knows firsthand that he seeks to weaken our country.

I am also someone who, by a strange twist of fate, was a young staff attorney on the House Judiciary Committee’s Watergate impeachment inquiry in 1974, as well as first lady during the impeachment process that began in 1998. And I was a senator for New York after 9/11, when Congress had to respond to an attack on our country. Each of these experiences offers important lessons for how we should proceed today.

To get to the meat of her arguments, yo should read her op-ed in entirety. I’ll provide an outline of her lessons here.

  • First, like in any time our nation is threatened, we have to remember that this is bigger than politics. What our country needs now is clear-eyed patriotism, not reflexive partisanship. Whether they like it or not, Republicans in Congress share the constitutional responsibility to protect the country. …
  • Second, Congress should hold substantive hearings that build on the Mueller report and fill in its gaps, not jump straight to an up-or-down vote on impeachment. …
  • Third, Congress can’t forget that the issue today is not just the president’s possible obstruction of justice — it’s also our national security. After 9/11, Congress established an independent, bipartisan commission to recommend steps that would help guard against future attacks. We need a similar commission today to help protect our elections. This is necessary because the president of the United States has proved himself unwilling to defend our nation from a clear and present danger. …
  • Fourth, while House Democrats pursue these efforts, they also should stay focused on the sensible agenda that voters demanded in the midterms, from protecting health care to investing in infrastructure. …
  • We have to get this right. The Mueller report isn’t just a reckoning about our recent history; it’s also a warning about the future.

Clinton concludes:

Of all the lessons from our history, the one that’s most important may be that each of us has a vital role to play as citizens. A crime was committed against all Americans, and all Americans should demand action and accountability. Our founders envisioned the danger we face today and designed a system to meet it. Now it’s up to us to prove the wisdom of our Constitution, the resilience of our democracy and the strength of our nation.

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